December 13, 2018

View as List Is Meat Bad for Your Health?

  • Is Meat Bad for Your Health?

    From backyard barbeques to club sandwiches, we are a nation of meat eaters. While red meat consumption is down slightly from its peak in the 1970s, we still consume three times the global average. And 22 percent of the meat we eat is processed, preserved with nitrates, sodium, and additives. Does all this meat pose a risk to your health? Here’s the latest research. 

  • 1

    Cancer Connection?

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    Studies indicate that processed meat such as bacon, ham, sausages, and hot dogs likely do cause cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that diets high in processed meats cause 34,000 cancer deaths a year. What about red meat? WHO classifies red meat as Group 2A—possibly carcinogenic—but more studies are needed to confirm this link. Also, lean red meat offers nutritional value. It’s high in protein, vitamin B12, B6, and iron. 

  • 2

    Red vs. White Meat

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    Switch red meat for white at dinner and you could lower your risk of stroke by almost 30%, according to a large study in the journal Stroke. Though the reason isn’t entirely clear, researchers suspect higher amounts of heme iron found in red meat, which has been linked to coronary heart disease, is one culprit. Not fond of chicken? Replacing one serving of red meat with other proteins like dairy or fish also cuts stroke risk. 

  • 3

    Make It Medium-Rare

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    You might want to order your steak medium rare. Cooking meat longer produces chemicals called heterocyclic amines that increase oxidative stress in the body. This may increase your risk of heart disease and cancer, according to a 2015 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

  • 4

    Skip the Deli Counter

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    It’s time to rethink your sandwich. In addition to the link to cancer, several studies show processed meat like salami increase the risk of other serious diseases. Just one serving of salami a day was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to a meta-analysis in Circulation.  Preservatives such as nitrates and sodium may be to blame. 

  • 5

    Go Nuts

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    Trade your hamburger for a serving of nuts, and you may be able to slash your risk of heart disease by almost a third, according to a study of over 85,000 women published in Circulation. Several factors may be at work. Nuts contain heart-healthy polyunsatured fats, which can lower cholesterol. And subbing nuts for meat decreases sodium, saturated fat, and heme iron, linked to heart disease. 

  • 6

    Fish Fridays

    grilled salmon

    Grill salmon rather than beef, and you may also cut your risk of heart disease. Women who ate higher amounts of fish had lower rates of heart disease and death, according to a prospective study in JAMA. Trading saturated fat in meat for fish containing omega-3 fatty acids helps your heart in several ways: by lowering triglycerides, decreasing abnormal heartbeats, and preventing plaque build up.  

  • 7

    Let Meat Play a Supporting Role

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    Make vegetables the stars of meals. And give meat a supporting role. Grill or sauté extra vegetables. Use meat sparingly to add flavor to your stir-fry or as a garnish.  

  • 8

    Go Globe-Trotting

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    Will it be Mediterranean, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, or Thai? Other cultures don’t rely on meat as much as we do. Experiment with different ethnic dishes where meat often takes a back seat to vegetables, fish, and spices. Just watch out for dishes high in salt or fatty sauces, and avoid fried foods. If going Indian, ask for dishes that aren’t made with ghee (clarified butter).

    Also see: Is Cheese Bad for Your Health?